Responding to a Disenchanted Calvinist – Part Two

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In this part I am looking to deal with the next two chapters of Pastor Rogers’s book, Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist (Crossbooks, 2012); those chapters are Predestination and Foreknowledge (Chapter II) and Double Predestination (Chapter III).  I had wanted to include Chapter IV, but Predestination and Foreknowledge are such important topics to the discussion of this book, and I feel they ought to be dealt with in full and exhaustively before moving on.

Having dealt with all introductory remarks in the last post, I believe we can go ahead and jump right in to his words.  Remember, each of his chapters begins with an affirmation and then further discussion of why he believes what he does.

     Chapter II: Predestination and Foreknowledge

It’s at least comforting to see Pastor Rogers deal with words such as these; in my experience, people will mention words like election and predestination as if a dirty word were coming from their mouths rather than words used unabashedly in the Bible.  Pastor Rogers recognizes that these words are Biblical and must be explained.

“I affirm that God’s predetermination and foreknowledge are coextensive, which is to say that neither God’s foreknowledge nor predetermination is either logically or chronologically prior to the other; therefore, God foreknows what He predetermines and predetermines what He foreknows” (7).

The best that I can say for statements such as this–and I’ve heard it from others–is that this is intentionally obscuring for the purpose of evading what the Scripture plainly teaches.  The Scripture speaks chronologically to us, because we are humans, and our understanding is limited (this should go without saying; it does not require that we introduce philosophical postulations to answer how God predestines events without being personally responsible for evil).

Notice something here: often Pastor Rogers will interject scripture to prove his point, but in this first affirmation–and the text following–of Chapter II, you will find only two that have any relationship to what he is proposing here.  That is two scriptures in three pages, three pages of one doctrinal affirmation after another (imagine your doctrinal statements declaring things with no support from the Bible).  One would expect to see more, especially in a book attempting to refute another theological position.

Let me show you a clear text, that displays both a logical and chronological progression (something PR is rejecting here), and directly relates to this topic:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30). 

Should we conclude that those that are predestined are already justified, therefore they need no repentance and faith?  Or that those justified are completely sanctified (glorified) in heaven?  No.  We know that there is a chronological and logical progression we must make, it is not for us to know the minutia of how God’s eternality is worked out.  There is absolutely no need for philosophical convoluting (unless you were attempting to evade the inevitable conclusion); the Scripture speaks plainly, but you have to let it do so…

“Moreover, I affirm that the distinction between predestining something to happen a certain way and predestining to allow some human freedom to determine outcomes are both within the scope of the biblical meaning of predestination and/or foreknowledge” (7).

I agree…to an extent.  However, I do not attempt to divide the two realities. The Scripture speaks of God’s predestined, predetermined, or ordained plan at the same time that it speaks of human freedom and human will; but in all cases God determines the outcome. Two examples from Scripture should suffice:

“[Joseph speaking to his brothers after being sold by them into slavery] As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).

“…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23).

In these verse we see the same event being acted on by two different forces, the will of man and the will of God; man intended it for evil, God intended it for good…ultimately God’s will prevailed and His will was accomplished.  It is not necessary to divorce God from all actions that are horrible in the eyes of men, otherwise we have a God who is not in control of His creation (this is a “disquieting reality”).  The Scripture does not draw the line between man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty, so why do it? Why add to the Scriptures what is not there?

“I…disaffirm that God’s foreknowledge of events, which makes certain their coming to pass [I’m really curious as to what that means, if anything, in light of everything he has said to this point], means that He was the efficient cause or in any way the direct cause of every event to come to pass or that comes to pass” (9).

At this point I’m not sure with whom Pastor Rogers is arguing; the following is directly from the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646; a thoroughly Calvinistic document, and one widely used by most Reformed churches):

“Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently” (V:II).

“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established” (III:I).

No person adhering to historic Calvinism denies man’s will or the nature of secondary causes, what they do deny is that God is not in control of His creation.  I’ve said it before and will again, the opponent of Calvinism attempts to deflect blame from God but he is left saying that God created a world where He foreknew that many would go to hell and that many atrocities would take place, yet did nothing to change it (theodicy is a common ‘problem’ for all, but denying God’s omnipotence and omniscience is not the answer, especially not the one given in Scripture; Eph 1:11; Heb 6:17; Acts 4:27-28; Dan 4:35; Read them, think about them).

     Chapter III: Double Predestination

Here we get into Pastor Rogers’s ideas of why God would not predestine some to eternal salvation, and leave the rest to their fate.  I’ll quickly define Double Predestination, and then look at what Pastor Rogers has to say.  Double Predestination is basically a logical inference; if God predestined some to eternal life, then He must have determined to send the rest to eternal death.  It does not mean that God performed the same actions to send people to hell as He does to heaven.  In order for a person to be saved, God must actively change a heart (Ez 36:26), and give the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-5); in order for a person to be damned, God must only be passive, leaving a man to their depravity and withholding His grace–to varying degrees.  Man takes care of the rest, left to himself.

“I affirm God predestined to seek and to save all, and He truly desires every person to be saved. This is demonstrated by His words, acts, and His provisions for everything necessary for a genuine offer of salvation, which can be received or rejected by His grace enabling and allowing a person a real choice as a free moral agent like Adam (Acts 17:30, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 John 2:2, Ezekiel 18:21-23, 1832)” (12).

The first sentence must be proven unequivocally (which I don’t believe it can).  Throughout his book PR will attempt to appeal to emotions and try to divert from thinking it all the way through (see his fifteenth chapter and discussion on the death of infants for an example).  I want to throw out some challenging questions for anyone:

1) Does everyone born in the world hear about the Gospel before their death? Why would God do this? Is He consigning them to eternal torment? Doesn’t seem fair

2) Why did God give Isaiah this charge in chapter 6:9-10: “Go, and say to this people [Israel]: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’  Make the hart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.“?  And then Jesus quotes it in John 12:40 when speaking about the unbelieving people. Why would he want their understanding to be hindered? Why would He not want to heal them?

3) Why did God love Jacob, but hate Esau (Romans 9:13)?  Most will think it shocking that God would hate Esau…what we ought to find shocking is that God loved Jacob.  Have you read about Jacob?

There are no short answers, but one things is proven: emotive responses to the doctrines of Calvinism do not answer the hard questions of Scripture.  So it sounds good that God would wish the salvation of all, but one question lingers: why doesn’t He save all?  You may respond, “because He won’t violate your free will!”  But why?  If it could save us all from eternal hellfire, why does he not violate our free will and save us?  Well, for some I believe He does, but that is the issue at hand.  Romans 9 makes one thing clear, God is most concerned about His glory…that’s why.

But let’s look at a few of the verses he provides (not all, due to time, length, and the fact that they will likely be repeated), because we will see them again throughout this book, and I will reference back to this post.  The first:

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Probably the most oft-cited prooftext in the Arminian/Synergist arsenal (so it ought to be dealt with early).  But as it will be quickly shown, it really does nothing for their cause other than strengthening the Calvinist argument.

Question 1: Who is being spoken to here; who is the ‘you’ in this passage?

Answer: God’s elect. The beloved of God. See 2 Peter 3:1: “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.”  

Q2: Does this mean that God will never return?  After all, this verse is speaking of God coming again in judgment to end the world, and someone is accusing Him of being slow in returning; so does that mean that God will not return until ALL (every single person in the world) reach repentance?  We may be waiting for some time.

Answer: I hardly think you can make that fly scripturally or logically.

Q3: How are we to understand the phrase, “but is patient toward you,” if what he is speaking of is the salvation of the whole world?  The phrase makes no sense, it is left hanging, if he is addressing this to the church but speaking of the salvation of the world; how is that “being patient” toward us, the beloved?

Answer: It is more easily understood as being a comforting statement to the church, the ecclesia (the elect), that none of them (the elect) shall perish, but that all (the elect) shall reach repentance before the coming of Christ.  Paul says this in 2 Timothy 2:10, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”  But why just endure everything for the sake of the elect? He doesn’t know who they are, but he does know that the ingathering of the elect is not finished, because the end has not yet come.  So until then, we evangelize, preach, witness, until Christ has gathered in His fold (John 10:16), and then comes the end.

Next verse, Ezekiel 18:21-23, and 18:32:

21-23: “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” …32: “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”

The idea here is to make it seem like the Calvinist has a problem with verses such as this; as though we believe God takes great pleasure in wickedness (find me that Calvinist), or that He takes pleasure in the consequences of wickedness such as death, hell, etc. (I repeat, find me that Calvinist and I’ll show you a Calvinist who hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about).  The other objective here is to show that man is responsible for his actions; again the Calvinist resounds with a hearty “Amen!” Either way, this verse really shows nothing with respect to double predestination.  There is no disagreement here.

“I disaffirm that God elected some, the elect, to go to heaven by regenerating them prior to faith and some, the non-elect, to go to hell without a chance to be regenerated in response to faith” (12).

Let me reword this disaffirmation so perhaps the problem comes out: “I disaffirm that God had mercy on some, the ones He chose to have mercy upon (Rom 9:15), to go to heaven by regenerating them prior to any work or action on their part (Eph 2:9) and some, the ones left in their sins, to go to hell due to their rejection of the free offer of the Gospel (Rom 3:10-11).”  Does that change it at all?  If not, think about it…  When using Biblical language, and giving it a Scriptural foundation, it is hard to get around the facts.

“I further disaffirm that Romans 8:29-30, a reference to God’s foreknowing, is satisfactorily handled by interpreting it to merely mean love and/or synonymous with being cauatively ‘predestined'” (12).

Alright, dealing with Scripture now.  Romans 8:29-30; love the verse, and not just because it is an impossible text for the Synergist to handle.  It is a text loaded with great promise; it is not simply a proof-text for God’s sovereign choice, His mercy, and grace, but also His ability to bring us through to the end…not losing one of His people.  The rest of the chapter is about that, that no one can bring a charge against God’s elect.

I am bothered by a few things here: 1) Pastor Rogers says it does not “merely mean love.”  Merely?  This is a great love with which He has loved us (1 John 3:1)!  God owed us nothing; He could have cast us into hell the moment he created us; He could have left us in our sins forever!  Merely?  No.  I refuse to accept that dismissal of a this great foreknowledge (or fore-loving).  2) What else does it mean?  Being a Biblicist you must give foreknowledge meaning from the context, using a consistent hermeneutic; and anyone doing so knows that to “know” anything Biblically speaking is to love intimately (Jer 1:5; I want to see the foreknowing in that verse interpreted in the same way as a Synergist would attempt to do in Romans 8:29), even at times meaning sexual relations.  If it has another meaning Pastor Rogers must provide it, but a dismissal like this is simply what he calls it, his personal disaffirmation (an opinion).  Sorry, but the word merely in the same sentence describing the love of God gets me going.

“To say they deserve it, or that God is just, misses the point [my emphasis].  For the dilemma is not regarding their just due, but rather what kind of father is God, knowing that He could have exercise selective regeneration through irresistible grace and delivered them from such fate” (13).

How does it miss the point?  Again, Pastor Rogers creates a false dilemma; he defines “fatherly” by his definition rather than the Bible’s and then creates a tension that is not there.  The point is exactly what he say it isn’t.  Man is not a neutral autonomous being, he is a depraved wretch in need of God’s grace, but certainly not worthy of it.  Without the selective regeneration of God, there would be no salvation, ever.  Like I’ve said, a misunderstanding in Total Depravity often causes a misunderstanding of Calvinism.

“…it is inaccurate for the Calvinist to say that the elect are saved by faith since regeneration is a part of salvation and happens prior to and apart from faith” (14).

Straw man again.  This is a false construction of the Calvinist argument.  Regeneration and Salvation are related but not synonymous, Pastor Rogers is conflating justification with regeneration.  To outline the Calvinistic soteriology briefly: Regeration is the doctrine that man, being totally depraved and dead in his sin, is regenerated (literally re-born/born again) to life, given a new heart (as in Ezekiel) and then he responds in faith and repentance leading to Justification (salvation).  Thus it is incorrect for him to level this charge against Calvinism.

Note: There is an objection in the second paragraph, first sentence, that I would like to address, but it will be addressed when I get to his chapter (VI) on the Limited Atonement of Christ (I’ll come back and link when it is written).

Pastor Rogers gets into the issues of God’s love and whether it is different between individuals.  He admits that there is a difference between the love shown to a believer and a non-believer, however “His love for the lost would be different had they become the elect through faith, which they in fact could have done” (15).

Herein lies the crux and the problem of all that has been mentioned to this point.  That is, we are actually able to make ourselves elect by what we do.  In other words, our election (or becoming the people of God) is based on our ability to do the right thing.  The reason we are believers and our neighbor isn’t?  We were smarter.  We were more humble.  We were…better.  Notice a problem here?  We. We. Me. Me. I. I.  And God?  Well, he’s regulated to a “fatherly” figure in the sky hoping that we will respond to His message of salvation.  Good thing people have!  Otherwise God’s had the possibility of being thwarted.  Jesus’s death had the possibility of being for naught and wasted.  And that’s the point, left to ourselves, in our sinful natures, we would have thwarted the will of God to save a people to Himself.  However the Scriptures speak much differently:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” -1 Peter 2:9-10

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word….I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” -John 17:6&9

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day…It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe…And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.‘” -John 6:44&63-65

“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertionbut on God, who has mercy…So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” -Romans 9:14-16&18

I could go on and on…and on.  The fact that God is free to dispense His grace in salvation is a truth revealed in Scripture, and it must be dealt with.  We’ll see if Pastor Rogers does so, but he hasn’t yet.

SDG,

Jon

See the author’s response to my review: here.

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~ by TSL on February 9, 2013.

One Response to “Responding to a Disenchanted Calvinist – Part Two”

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